Ladies’ 1780s Portrait Dress Pattern


I have long loved the beautiful, pastoral portraits of the Georgian Era. Women and children posed in fields and beneath trees painted by artists like Thomas Gainsborough marked a departure from the stiffer, more formal portraits of a generation before. Some of my favorite paintings are by George Romney and Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun (you can view several in the slideshow gallery above).

When I created the Girls’ 1780s Portrait Dress pattern, I knew I’d want to follow up with a women’s version–and hundreds of customer requests confirmed that! The construction of the dresses offered in this pattern comes from the study of dozens of portraits, plus scrutiny of extant gowns for women from this time period, but I’ve stuck with conventional machine techniques in the instructions to allow for ease of sewing. If you are a die-hard who wants an authentic gown, I do have an appendix with all the vintage sewing steps laid out in detail.

This pattern includes options for a smooth-bodice dress that fastens up the front, a polonaise with pointed bodice front, and a drawstring bodice dress that slips over the head. It also offers elbow-length sleeves with optional ruffles and fitted long sleeves. Please note that correct underpinnings are required for views 1 and 2.

  • Sizes 6-26 all included in one envelope.
  • Illustrated instructions with appendices on authentic 18th-century sewing techniques and correct underpinnings.
  • This pattern was designed over stays made from the Mantua Maker’s Georgian Stays pattern. Views 1 and 2 will not fit without correct underpinnings!
  • The drawstring dress option will work over conventional modern underthings if you prefer.
  • Click to download the Ladies’ 1780s Portrait Dress Chart.
  • ePattern available for instant download.

This pattern is rated advanced intermediate because of the sewing knowledge and fitting skills required. If you can make a Regency gown, you are ready to move on to this pattern, and I am always available through the Contact Form if you have questions!

IMPORTANT CORRECTION: A customer caught an error in this pattern on 12/27/10. The sleeve instructions say to match the crossed circles, but you actually don’t need to do that. It’s the girl’s version of this pattern that has the crossed circles. To match the sleeves properly, you only need to start at the armhole angle by matching the sleeve corner (with a 5/8″ overlap as illustrated). Pin around the smooth side of the sleeve until you reach the “leftover” portion that needs to be pleated. Pleat into place and finish at the corner. That’s it! If you purchased this pattern after June 2011, the instructions are already corrected.

Paper Pattern $17.95
ePattern $9.95

85 Comments on Ladies’ 1780s Portrait Dress Pattern

  1. Sara
    November 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm (2 years ago)

    Dear Jennie,
    Do you know any one who would be willing to make this dress for me? I do not have any dress making abilities, but love this dress.

  2. sara
    November 7, 2012 at 1:11 pm (2 years ago)

    Thank you so much. I love your website and patterns!

  3. curious crafter
    January 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm (2 years ago)

    Could I use regular fabric for the drawstring dress?

    • Jennie Chancey
      January 4, 2013 at 9:01 am (2 years ago)

      Any lightweight cotton will work nicely. If you use something too heavy, it’s hard to pull up the drawstring and looks bulky. Hope this helps!

  4. Elizabeth
    January 11, 2014 at 1:30 am (1 year ago)

    Hi Mrs Chancey. I thought you should know that the link for Mantra Maker doesn’t work. ~Elizabeth

    • Jennie Chancey
      January 11, 2014 at 12:48 pm (1 year ago)

      Thanks! She rearranged her site. I fixed it. :-)

  5. Lisa
    March 23, 2014 at 1:58 am (1 year ago)

    Hi Jenny! I’m a little confused about making a sheer drawstring over-the-head dress with an opaque binding (to cover conventional underthings). I’m trying to figure out which pattern pieces to cut out for the sheer fabric and the lining fabric. I see in the main pattern, view 3, no lining is included. When directed to the Appendix II, View 3, I found directions that suggest I should cut the bodice center front at the fold to make the opening. I don’t want an opening in the front, right, just in the back. Is that just a typo? Thanks so much for your help!

    • Jennie Chancey
      March 24, 2014 at 9:57 pm (1 year ago)

      Hi, Lisa! Sorry about the confusion. Appendix II gives authentic construction techniques, which would include the front opening (rather than the slip-over-the-head option). If you want a sheer bodice, don’t use lining–only binding to enclose the neckline edge and the waistline seam. If you want an opaque dress, flat-line the bodice as shown (also called “interlining”). As given in the main instructions, the drawstring gown is sheer and has no back or front opening. Hope this helps! Warmly, Jennie

  6. Holly
    June 24, 2014 at 10:13 pm (10 months ago)

    Is the drawstring version a “chemise a la reine”? Also, do the half sleeve flounces come from the chemise/shift underneath, or are they sewn on to the gown?

    • Jennie Chancey
      June 25, 2014 at 9:10 pm (10 months ago)

      Hi, Holly! This is a pull-over-the-head version of a chemise a la reine. If you want to make it closer to the majority of extant gowns, you can have it open down the front with the drawstrings used for closure at the neckline and waist. :-) And the flounces are sewn to the end of the elbow-length sleeves. Hope this helps!

  7. Mairi McCloud
    March 25, 2015 at 6:51 pm (1 month ago)

    I have this pattern and was wondering if the over-dress was turned into a caraco, how much less yardage would that be? Thanks!

    • Jennie Chancey
      March 26, 2015 at 8:52 pm (1 month ago)

      Hi, Mairi! Yes, you can make a lovely hip-length jacket with this pattern. You’ll only need about 2 1/4 yards (2 3/4 if you plan to do long sleeves). No need for yards and yards of material for the skirt. Happy sewing!


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